HBO Comes Roaring Out of the Gate

6 06 2005

Both ENTOURAGE and THE COMEBACK started up last night on HBO, taxing my Tivo which was trying to “tape” Family Guy at the same time. And while I think ENTOURAGE was passable (it was never a great show but had a guilty pleasure sort of feel to it, thanks to the great ensemble acting) the new LIsa Kudrow series was a perfect example of why it’s better that Larry David keep doing what he’s doing and let the rest of the world avoid making terrible copies of his concept.

THE COMEBACK stars Kudrow as Valerie Cherish, a past star of a hit television comedy (stop me if you’re gagging yet) who is looking to get her career going again. Despite the fact that this seems like an entire series stolen from a single episode of CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, it’s also a warning signal for those people who think that just because you’re an actor/actress who’s been on a successful show that you’ve got the talent to write and produce something else. You don’t. Especially if you’re going to be starring in it.

This is a show that, in the fifteen minutes that I was able to sit through it (I have to admit that I bailed half way into it) followed Kudrow/Cherish as she talked endlessly to the camera. You see, the set-up is that she’s in a reality show about her doing the new series. So… (stop me when this gets too boring) THE COMEBACK is a television show that is about an actress who’s doing a fictional reality show about a ficitional television sitcom. You can just see the series creator dropping Charlie Kaufman’s name into the pitch every thirty seconds.

The problem with this show (as with the equally execrable FAT ACTRESS) is that the leads just aren’t very interesting and they’ve put themselves in the middle of a few (very very few) supporting characters who are, if possible, even less interesting. Kirstie Alley had two sycophantic personal aides. Kudrow has a hairdresser and probably some other idiotic sidekick-type people who I would have discovered if I could have stomached watching another 15 minutes of the show.

But if you take a look at how CURB and ENTOURAGE work (as well as every reality show out there) there are normally LOTS of people on the show, all of whom have varying degrees of their own personalities that don’t necessarily revolve around the lead. On ENTOURAGE, it’s hard to tell who’s the lead. And that’s not a bad thing. And while CURB revolves around Larry David, many of the other characters don’t seem to notice — they think it’s about them. And that’s not a bad thing either.

The writing is also a million times better on CURB than on any other show of its kind.

Of course Kudrow (who is executive producer along with former Sex And The City executive Michael Patrick King) won’t change any of these things because you can tell by the way she hangs on shots w-a-a-a-y after they’ve made their point, that she thinks that she’s being very very funny at the same time that she’s making a very valuable point about Hollywood (Lord save us from well-meaning but incredibly over-insulated stars). Who cares if it gets boring. The hell with the audience attention span.

As another example, there’s a running gag where Kudrow makes the “time-out” signal again and again to the reality show producer, despite the fact that we’ve been told that there’s no time out when you shoot reality television (uh huh, you bet). Again and again. It wasn’t funny the first time and, despite the conceit that some comedy works through repetition, it never gets any better.

There’s also the tone deaf dialogue. At one point, coming into a waiting room for an audition, she spots Marilu Henner who’s there for the same role. Henner looks at Kudrow and says something like “Valerie!! Wow. Who’s going to be next? Valerie Bertinelli?” The repetition of the name “Valerie” is pointless and stupid.

So… how much did I like THE COMEBACK? Tonight, I’m watching SIX FEET UNDER, and I’m going to go into it pissed off at HBO.

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